In case you haven’t heard yet, Dexter Morgan is a Miami blood spatter analyst for the Homicide Department who moonlights as a serial killer. He channels his bloodthirsty urges by going after the people who, for whatever reason, slipped through the cracks of the regular justice system. You could call him a vigilante, but the truth is he would be a killer anyway. He was just taught to use his, um, skills in a more productive way by his adopted father Harry.
Last time, we found out that Dexter’s Dark Passenger (which feeds his urges) is related to ancient evil spirits that possess people in an installment we’d all rather forget happened. Then the series came back to life a bit with a demented installation artist using human bodies as his artistic medium. Dex also got married to his long-time girlfriend (and cover) Rita, got his policewoman sister Deborah to accept that he uses his hobby for the greater good, and recognized that his stepchildren Astor and Cody have Dark Passengers of their own. In order to help them stay hidden like he has, Dex has taken it upon himself to teach them the Harry Code. In theory. this is an interesting twist, but in reality it just means that the climaxes almost always involve one or more of the kids getting kidnapped. Oh, and Rita found out that she was pregnant. Get used to that kind of announcement (hint hint).
Dexter is a daddy! Welcome Lily Anne Morgan, a little bundle of joy who has changed Dex’s entire life. Fatherhood seems to have forced the Dark Passenger to recede, and this time Dexter doesn’t miss him a bit. He’s determined to be a good, proper father to his little girl. That means no dirty deeds. Daddy Dexter doesn’t want to risk missing out on Lily Anne’s life, and that means no jail time (or death row). Of course, this is going to prove to be a difficult resolution to keep.
It all starts to go south when a rich girl goes missing and Dexter suspects that the large amounts of blood on the scene were planted to get money from her parents. Investigating with Deb, it appears that the missing girl ran off with her wild boyfriend to hang out with a dude who had his teeth filed down to fangs. The plot thickens when the boyfriend turns up dead, having been turned into barbecue for a ravenous gang of goth cannibals (because that’s trendy, right?). Things are further complicated when it appears that the son of a prominent city official is the ringleader of this gang. Things are even more complicated when it begins to appear as though the girl doesn’t want to be rescued after all; she and her boyfriend actually ran away with the cannibal gang. They have a fetish that involves being eaten (because that happens, right?).
Then there’s Dexter’s personal life, where parental and wedded bliss is unfortunately cut short when his brother Brian (the killer from the first book) shows up. Remember, at the end of the TV show’s first season Brian was killed off, but in the books he managed to escape? He’s finally back. And he seems to be usurping Dex’s role in the family. Astor and Cody like him and want him to take over their ‘lessons.’ Rita can’t stop cooking for him. Even Lily Anne seems smitten. Of course, it is very important that Deb doesn’t find out that Brian is back in town (funny little thing–she kinda held a grudge after Brian tried to kill her), so complications abound.
Meanwhile, Deb’s relationship with ex-special forces agent Kyle Chutsky is on the rocks. She loves him, but he feels like less of a man ever since he was maimed by a deranged surgeon (because that happens, too, right?).
This is Jeff Lindsay nearly firing on all cylinders once again. The cannibal gang/getting eaten fetish thing is deliciously off the wall and wrong and can’t-stop-reading twisted. Dexter’s early promise to himself to be a good family man creates nice tension as he inevitably devolves back into his old ways. Dexter’s ‘condition’ doesn’t really allow for genuine human emotion, so it’s nice to see him uncontrollably protective/jealous regarding his family. It deepens him as a character. We also get to see some fragility from Deb. To call that uncharacteristic would be the understatement of the year. She wants it to work with Kyle but seems to know that it’s already falling apart. The resolution we get for her storyline is actually heartfelt in a series usually lacking in that department. And it makes you curious about what’s next.
The unthinkable has happened. Someone saw Dexter engaging in his favorite pastime. At first, Dex thinks the mystery man plans to turn him into the police, but it turns out he has more nefarious things in mind. He’s been inspired by Dexter. He wants to be like Dexter, getting rid of the people he deems to be morally inferior. He’s been beaten down by life lately, so this is his big shot to be somebody. Of course, there’s the little problem of Dexter. The rules say that people who get away with bad things have to go. So Dex himself needs to be brought to account.
Meanwhile, there’s a cop killer on the loose and Deb is hot on the trail, proving that single motherhood (her big revelation at the end of the last book was that Kyle got her pregnant before running off) hasn’t made her any less of a cop. And Rita wants a bigger house to suit their bigger family. Dex doesn’t want to move, but his brother Brian is undermining him at every turn.
The premise is rock solid. If you apply the logic behind the Harry Code to Dexter, he’s a perfectly viable candidate for playtime. But the execution fails to stick the landing, mainly because the subplots are annoying and get in the way. Dexter’s battle with Brian to be alpha male of his own family was interesting in Dexter is Delicious, but it’s tiresome now. Deb’s unexpected pregnancy at the end of that book promised big things, but it turns out she’s resistant to change. And we’re back to Astor and Cody getting kidnapped by the baddie leading into the climax. I cannot yawn hard enough. Jeff Lindsay likes these plot devices and does not seem willing to give them up, returning to them again and again. We’re officially in a rut.
Find out if we get out of that rut in my review of Dexter’s Final Cut. Then, for more Dexter, check out my TV series vs Book series post, as well as Part 1 of my series rundown.